- Briefing Room
U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590
Susan Wimberly, Field Operations Team Leader
Description: Congress authorized in Title 23, United States Code, Section 125, a special program from the Highway Trust Fund for the repair or reconstruction of Federal-aid highways and roads on Federal lands which have suffered serious damage as a result of (1) natural disasters or (2) catastrophic failures from an external cause. This program, commonly referred to as the emergency relief or ER program, supplements the commitment of resources by States, their political subdivisions, or other Federal agencies to help pay for unusually heavy expenses resulting from extraordinary conditions. The applicability of the ER program to a natural disaster is based on the extent and intensity of the disaster. Damage to highways must be severe, occur over a wide area, and result in unusually high expenses to the highway agency. Applicability of ER to a catastrophic failure due to an external cause is based on the criteria that the failure was not the result of an inherent flaw in the facility but was sudden, caused a disastrous impact on transportation services, and resulted in unusually high expenses to the highway agency.
Funds Available: $100 million is authorized annually for the ER Program under 23 U.S.C. 125. Congress has periodically provided additional funds for the ER program through supplemental appropriations. MAP-21 eliminated the $100 million per State event cap. The total ER obligations for U.S. Territories (American Samoa, Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and Virgin Islands) is limited to $20 million in any fiscal year.
Federal Share: Approved ER funds are available at the pro-rata share that would normally apply to the Federal-aid facility damaged. In accordance with 23 U.S.C. 120, including sliding scale adjustment for States with high percentages of Federally-owned public lands. The Federal share for permanent ER repairs may amount to 90 percent if the combined eligible ER expenses incurred by the State in a Federal fiscal year exceeds the annual apportionment of the State under 23 U.S.C. section 104 for the fiscal year in which the disasters or failures occurred.
How to Apply: It is the responsibility of individual States to request ER funds for assistance in the cost of necessary repair of Federal-aid highways damaged by natural disasters or catastrophic failures. A notice of intent to request ER funds filed by the State Department of Transportation with the FHWA Division Office located in the State will initiate the ER application process.
The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) amended the eligibility of debris removal on Federal-aid highways under the ER Program. Additional information on MAP-21 changes to the ER program are addressed in a Question and Answer format at https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/map21/qandas/qaer.cfm.
The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation ACT (FAST Act) clarifies eligibility for debris removal and the definition of “open to public travel” on Federal Lands and Tribal Transportation facilities or other federally-owned roads if the facility is eligible under the Emergency Relief program. [FAST Act § 1107; 23 U.S.C. 125(d)(3) and (e)(1)] Additional information on FAST Act changes to the ER program are addresses at https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/fastact/factsheets/emergencyrelieffs.cfm.
Under MAP-21, Federal Lands Access Program Facilities had been eligible for 100% Federal share; the FAST Act eliminated that eligibility. Per § 421 of the Department of Transportation Appropriations Act, 2016 (P.L. 114-113), the FAST Act amendment applies to projects to repair or reconstruct facilities damaged as a result of a qualifying natural disaster or catastrophic failure that occurs after October 1, 2015. [FAST Act § 1408(b); 23 U.S.C. 120(e)(2)]